By Sara Pitcher
Some states require a putative father to submit his information to a database – a putative father registry - to preserve some of his rights as the father of the child.
A putative father is a man who may be a child's father, but who is not married to the child's mother on or before the date that the child is born, or who has not legally established paternity of the child before the filing of an adoption petition for the child.
This impacts any man who thinks he is the biological father of a child born out of wedlock. As soon as a man believes he may be the father of a child, he should determine whether the state that the woman lives in has any requirements for registering as a putative father.
If you suspect that you are the father of a child born out of wedlock who is under the age of 18 years old, you should immediately determine whether there is a putative father registry in your area.
Putative Father Registry Requirements
A putative father registry has been established to determine the identity and location of an undisclosed putative father who may have conceived a child for whom an adoption petition has been or may be filed in order to provide notice of the adoption to the putative father.
Some states’ putative father registration requirements place the burden of registering solely on the man to ensure he is notified of any petitions for adoption.
If a man believing he is the father of the child is not married to the woman or has not formally established paternity of the child, for the man to receive notice of an adoption, he must register with the State Board of Health any time during the pregnancy and up to 30 days following the birth of the child, at least where I practice.
Some state’s paternity laws provide a longer period of time to register when a petition for adoption is not filed within 30 days of the birth. If a father registers in a timely manner, he will receive notice of the adoption and an opportunity to contest the adoption.
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Based on the above description, it may seem that this would not impact many men. However, not all adoptions take place immediately following the birth of the child. A common situation that arises is when the mother seeks to have her new husband adopt the child she had prior to the relationship.
If the man believing he was the biological father of the child registered with the putative father registry, even if he has lost contact with the mother and never confirmed whether the child was his, he will be given notice of the Petition for Adoption and will be able to contest the adoption of the child.
Information Stored In A Putative Father Registry
The following information will be stored in the registry and should be supplied by the putative father, if available:
- The putative father’s name, the address at which he can be served, social security number, and date of birth;
- The birth mother’s name, including all other names known to the putative father that the mother uses, if known, her address, if known, her social security number, if known, and her date of birth, if known; and
- The child’s name, if known, and the child’s place of birth, if known.
Where I practice, the state uses a form to complete the registration process for a putative father. The form can be obtained from the state department, each clerk of a circuit court, or a local health department. The form must be signed by the putative father and notarized.
Under my state’s paternity laws, a father who fails to register with the Putative Father Registry prior to a Petition for Adoption being filed for the child, the termination of the parent child relationship of the child and the birth mother, or within 30 days of the child’s birth waives the right to notice of an adoption proceeding.
The putative father’s waive of notice constitutes an irrevocably implied consent to the child's adoption.
A putative father may revoke a registration at any time by submitting a signed, notarized statement revoking the registration. Employees of the State Department conduct searches of the registry.
A request for a search can only be made by limited individuals and must be made by written request. Except when there is a match between a registrant and a search, the information contained in the registry is confidential.
Registering at any point prior to a petition for adoption being filed or the termination of the birth mother’s parental rights will help preserve the rights of the father.